Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What to do? What to do?

For a project I've been working on, I have to edit a collection of thousands of images down to twenty that will tell the story well. Incredibly difficult because I really love so many of them.  In the past I've done major edits down to about fifty or so images and then asked people I trust to have a say. But being able to do the selections alone and independently is really essential, so I struggle on. It may not be my twenty  most favorite images, but the series will certainly tell the story.

In the meantime, I've been trying to get out and shoot unrelated stuff just to clear my mind. On Monday I took a walk through the Lower East Side and Chinatown. The weather was beautiful, but way too sunny. Very harsh contrasts, even in late afternoon. Winter light is so much more forgiving. But we work with whatever G-d gives us, eh?

So, here's the stuff:






Sunday, October 26, 2014

Going Back In Time

Every so often I like to browse through my catalog of photos just to review what I was shooting one or two years ago compared to now. Often I find images that I may have passed over, or meant to work on but never got to. Since I've been a bit out of commission for the past week I had the chance to look back, and found stuff that I thought was worth working over. So here it is, no particular order or subject. I just wanted to see how they looked on the blog.









Sunday, October 19, 2014

End of the Fall Holiday Season, Pt. 2

A few days ago I posted 'The End of the Fall Holiday Season' which was a series of street photos I shot on Hashanah Rabbah. I also took photos inside the Sukkat at the Chabad headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway. It was quite a challenge to work in extremely an crowded environment, especially because part of the ritual requires the celebrants to make seven circuits around the podium holding the Torah. There were concurrent services going on in several rooms, none of which had any room to spare for a photographer. The hats, the lulav and etrog, the Torah, and all the people milling about generated some interesting compositions. But to get the shots I had to twist and contort, and climb and kneel. Not easy for my aging body.

Here's quite a few shots. Some people tried to avoid the crowd in the back alley:


Although women don't enter the same sanctuary as the men (another time), they have their own ritual of holding and saying blessings with the lulav and etrog:


A rare quiet moment of respite:


In one of the rooms adjacent to the main Sukkot:



Marching around the Torah:


A short break from the marching:


The Torah in an adjacent room. I was stuck inside the marchers, pinned up against the podium. So I
took advantage of the close position. Thankfully, I had a super wide angle lens:





All that marching and praying can be VERY tiring!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Two Music Masters/Veterans

Yesterday afternoon I had a visit with my old friend and bandmate David Grisman. He was scheduled to play an evening of duets at the City Winery in NYC with John Sebastian. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but given David's musical talent I knew he could blend in with just about anyone in any style of music. I couldn't stay for the performance, but I've always enjoyed working sound checks more than performances anyway. When an entertainer takes the stage for an audience, he's there to perform with his public persona. During a sound check or rehearsal the real deal comes out. He can get angry, happy, annoyed .... whatever. And I don't have to worry about being in anyone's line of sight, I can stand on chairs, or walk around on stage (usually .... yesterday was an exception). 

The music was great, kind of like the duets Grisman recorded with Jerry Garcia, but with a different twist à la Sebastian. Next month Grisman is appearing at the City Winery with bluegrass all-star Del McCoury. I'm really looking forward to that.

Here's some of Dawg and Sebastian:






Thursday, October 16, 2014

The End of the Fall Holiday Season

The holiday season begins with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Simchat Torah - the most joyous holiday in the Jewish calendar. Simhat Torah  is not mentioned in either the Torah nor the Talmud. If you would like deeper understanding of the holiday you can read this, which goes into quite a bit more detail than the wikipedia entry for the holiday. It's a day of celebrating the final reading in the Torah Scroll in the book of Deuteronomy and the return to the beginning reading in Genesis. It is not so much of a 'starting over again'  -  the concept of life in Judaism in not cyclical, but linear - so much as a 'new beginning'. After the stock-taking inventory of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with deeply felt prayers for repentance, we now have a chance to begin anew and hopefully do better. The Torah scrolls are removed from the holy ark (usually three scrolls) and members of the congregation dance exuberantly while carrying them in circuits around the room and out into the street. I've never been able to photograph the celebration because any rabbi I've ever interacted with would want me to participate in the observances, and not work (as in take photos). The same is true for the first days of Sukkot and Pesach (I would love to be able to photograph a seder),  Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Shavuot.

The final day of Sukkot, called Hashanah Rabbah, is however accessible to me. I celebrated it in Crown Heights at the Chabad headquarters of the Lubavitch movement. The Sukkat was densely packed with men performing the holiday rituals with the lulav and etrog. In the back of the sukkot there was a special section set aside for women to celebrate the ritual also. But the rooms were so crowded access to the women's section was impossible. I'll have photos of the celebrations in the next blog post.

The streets of Crown Heights were filled with people enjoying a meal in the many sukkot set up by restaurants on Kingston Avenue, and shoppers restocking for the next round of holiday meals.

People enjoying the culinary delights of the neighborhood in the outdoor sukkot:



Shopping for the next round of holiday meals:


Young men shopping for their first traditional homburg:



Shopping for kippot (skull caps) can be daunting if one's husband has a big head:


Everyone in the neighborhood was in a celebratory, super friendly mood:




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sukkot in Williamsburg

Every year on the Sunday of Sukkot the Williamsburg Hassidic community hosts a street fair for kids with rides and carnival games. I spent some time there this past Sunday before going to Crown Heights for the Sukkot service at 770 Eastern Parkway. I hope to be there again (at 770) on Wednesday for the celebration of Hashana Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot.

Here's the pics from Williamsburg:







Monday, October 13, 2014

Sukkot in Crown Heights

Yesterday I spent some time in Williamsburg at the Sukkot street fair, and then in Crown Heights at the Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters, 770 Eastern Parkway. At night and well into the next dawn there's dancing in the streets to live music, but it started too late for me to stick around. I had a chance to get some shots in the sukkot after dark and in the dim light.